APS Therapy for chronic pain

As far as I’m concerned APS Therapy (Action Potential Simulation) stands for Amazing Pain Solutions! A local GP recommended I investigate this therapy in late 1999 when I was going through a particularly intense period of pain. I trialled the electrotherapy device and decided to buy a unit for treating myself. Painmasters were not available at this time. Little did I realise that APS Therapy is a microcurrent therapy which is the type of current used in Painmasters. APS Therapy is not identical with the Painmaster as Painmaster patches need to be worn continuously whereas the electrodes for APS Therapy are applied for 32 minutes at the maximum each day. But APS Therapy has been instrumental in giving me wonderful pain relief in a couple of situations where Painmasters were not helpful enough.


APS Therapy Unit Model MK 1.1 Purchased from APS Therapy Queensland.

For instance in late 2011, pain started to run down my right arm. At night the pain would wake me up. I eventually realised that my arm had been moving in a repetitive action as I used a small scythe to cut back long grass over large areas of our acreage. So I decided to switch to my left arm for this task but after a while that arm also started to become painful. And then everyday activities started to inflame the arms – just lifting dishes up out of the dishwasher, pulling watering hoses along the ground, opening or closing sliding glass doors, lifting shopping bags. At the time I was already on medication to calm down the nervous system as well as anti-inflammatory medication – however it was insufficient for preventing the pain which was now coursing down both arms.

So next I tried to rubbing Dencorub into my lower arms and around the elbows. As I did this I could distinguish large painful lumps and strings of nodules and various sore points. I stopped using any weights when I did arm exercises and changed to gentle arm stretches, I stopped all gardening, I stopped playing the piano, I stopped spending much time on the computer keyboard, I stopped loading and lifting shopping bags … and then one evening I went walking and was really swinging my arms vigorously to see if that would help but all I did was re-ignite the pain so that it kept me awake during the night.

At this point I started to go each week for a session of electroacupuncture. I noticed how and where the acupuncturist put the needles on both of my arms. At the end of each treatment the pain was significantly less however by about another 24 hours the pain was returning in full. It would be too expensive to go any more regularly to the acupuncturist but I realised that if I could get the same delivery of this treatment every day then my arms would have a chance of recovering. However I was not going to use 4 Painmasters, 2 on each arm, for reasons of cost and because I would need to wear them full-time and would need to bandage the ones around my elbows to prevent them lifting off.

So I pulled out the APS Therapy Unit. Each day I would apply the electrodes in specific points along each arm and I would do 16 mins on one arm and then 16 mins on the other – from the top of the arm to a site above the elbow, and from below the elbow to above the wrist. I would turn up the Treatment Level dial on the unit until it felt like the arm was tingling or buzzing and then I would lower the current down again, just below that tingling point, and keep it at that level. By doing this every day for a number of months, the pain gradually diminished and my arms ceased to be sensitive when doing the ordinary household tasks. However I have not allowed myself to go back to using the scythe in the manner I once did. I only ever use it briefly.


The good thing about the unit is that it comes with an instruction booklet that gives guidelines about where to place the electrodes according to the type and site of the pain. If one needs more instructions on alternative sites for the electrodes one can visit impulse.apstherapy.com and click on the Contents. It is not as difficult to determine where to place the electrodes as it is to decide about the placement of Painmaster patches. It seems that it is possible to use the APS Therapy electrodes in quadrants … by this I mean that if my buttock is inflamed then I can place the electrodes roughly in a square at each corner of the buttock or the area bounded by the shoulder and waist. So it eliminates the problem of trying to find an exact location as is needed with Painmaster patches. Everything inside the 4 corners will be treated.

Elecrodes for APS

Of course there is the initial outlay of a lot of money to buy the APS Therapy unit. I paid A$2080 for the APS Therapy unit (model MK 1.1) in February 2000. And the electrodes (PALS Platinum Blue which are fairly pricey but necessary as other electrodes do not transmit in the same way) need replacing regularly as well as 4 x C batteries (the new Model MK 1.4 uses one 9V battery.) Very occasionally one may need to buy replacement cords. The life of the electrodes can be extended by putting a fine layer of water on the electrode surface before adhering it to the plastic sheet after every session. For the first 3 or 4 times the electrodes are fully hydrated and do not need this. But from then on I dampen each electrode carefully before I place it back on the plastic. I take the further measure of putting the 2 lots of electrodes back into the snaplock storage bag at the end of each session. Also the manufacturers recommend drinking at least 2 large glasses of water to flush out toxins after each session.

This brings me to another example of how APS Therapy has been more helpful than Painmasters. I get into more difficulty going on a holiday than most other times because I have created an optimal zone with specific seating and bedding in my own car and at home. Take me out of this zone and the pain flares up! So I decided to purchase the other lightweight model so that I could travel with less pain. This model is the APS MK 4, which cost me A$1960 in Dec 2013 from apstherapy.co.nz plus Customs Duty – as APS Therapy Queensland was no longer in business. There is a slight difference between my APS MK1.1 and APS MK4 – I need to watch that the treatment level does not continue to creep up after I have set the dial on the MK4 and changing the MK4 battery is fiddley as it is an awkward place. The APS MK1.1 also has a timer dial with settings of 4 mins, 8 mins, 16 mins.


APS Therapy Model MK4 with lightweight carry case

I realise the APS Therapy unit is expensive and I would only recommend it to people who have chronic pain in multiple areas (See My Disclaimer) as it would be wiser to start with buying a Painmaster. Chronic pain sufferers would understandably want to trial the APS unit first and that may not always be possible.

After months of using the APS Unit I have made several important discoveries for treating myself

  • the lower the treatment level when the tingling in the body starts, the more substantial the pain condition in that site
  • it is better to keep the treatment level lower and extend the length of the session in that site than to turn the treatment level up
  • if the pain in one site has become extremely strong then I shift the electrodes around in one general area to get maximum pain relief e.g. first I might put the electrodes in a quadrant on the buttock with the black electrodes at the top and the red electrodes below near the top of the legs (for 8 mins), secondly I might do a quadrant on the lower back with the black electrodes on the left and the red on the right (for 8 mins), thirdly I might do the hips in 1 or 2 ways  as shown here from the booklet(for 8 mins), and fourthly I might do the first step again if that was the position where the treatment dial could only be turned up a small amount before reaching the tingling point (for the final 8 mins)

    From the User Manual p 32

    Examples of 2 ways of treating hip from the User Manual p 32

The one drawback for me with APS Therapy is that if e.g. I have strong pain in my buttock and I treat it in the method I described above, I then cannot go and do a lot of sitting as that will gradually undo the benefit of the treatment. (This highlights the marvellous capacity of the Painmaster to allow me to sit in a chair that would otherwise activate the pain.) It partly explains why I fell away from using the APS Therapy for a long time. I also did not benefit as much when I was first learning how to treat myself as I did not understand how crucial it was for the electrodes to be hydrated. And the other thing I have discovered is that the general rule of of starting most sessions by treating the spinal column first for 8 mins or more is wasted time in my case, time that would be better spent on the actual site of the pain.

So APS Therapy has given me wonderful peace of mind that at the end of the day I have the power to bring down the level of pain wherever I might be experiencing it, so that I can get a reasonable sleep. In general I use the Painmasters for lower back/buttock pain and APS Therapy on other sites – I still need to use specific medication for headaches. I can sometimes go without using APS Therapy for a number of months until pain re-asserts itself in some part of my body (besides my buttocks or head). But I can easily understand why this microcurrent therapy won a Gold Medal in 1998 for best medical invention at the International Invention Show in Geneva, Switzerland. How I wish the efficacy of microcurrent to treat pain would get the recognition it deserves throughout the medical profession!


The portable lightweight MK4 (right) compared to the MK1.1(left)